The Central District Stags scored a morale-boosting win over the Auckland Aces in a Twenty20 thriller at their fortress of New Plymouth's Pukekura Park last night.
For the Devon Hotel Stags, the seven-wicket victory was welcome relief after a gloomy couple of weeks of injuries and three successive losses on the road.
They were chasing 182 to win, and another Twenty20 master-class innings by Mathew Sinclair and the youthful Ben Smith set up the victory in front of a crowd of just 2000.
Sinclair came close to carrying his bat for the entire innings before being run out on 71 from the second ball of the last over.
Sinclair charged the ball and hit it back to the bowler Michael Bates and was run out chasing the winning run.
It was left to Stags skipper Kieran Noema-Barnett to hit the winning run from the next delivery.
Sinclair and Smith combined in a third-wicket partnership of 106 runs and 22-year-old Smith finished with a career-best 59 not out.
For Sinclair it was the third time in the competition he has been dismissed on 71 off 52 balls.
"I'll take it," Sinclair said after the match, unaware of the threepeat until then.
For the Stags, the result continued a fine recent home record - they have won their last nine matches at the venue.
Jamie How was a surprise inclusion in the playing XI, making himself available to play only on match morning, less than 12 hours after his wife gave birth to the couple's second daughter in Palmerston North.
Earlier, the Aces had trouble getting their innings under way, losing early wickets and in the ninth over had slumped to 4-59.
But then Colin Grandhomme put the Aces right back on track, taking to the Stags' bowling and blasting seven sixes to bring up a 20-ball half century and combining in a 17-run partnership with Craig Cachopa, who fell just one run short of his 50.
Donovan Grobbelaar continued the good work with a 42-run stand with Cachopa for the sixth wicket and Kyle Mills smashed a six off the last ball of the innings to take the score through to 181-6.
Stags coach Alan Hunt was pleased his team had put together a performance they could be proud of.
"We got a lot right in the fielding performance and we took our catches, that was important."
One of the Stags' aims, given they went into the match with no chance of making the playoffs, was to avoid picking up the competition wooden spoon.
"We'll close up on points now with Canterbury so it was nice to get started and we've got two matches remaining and it would be nice to do it again here against Otago on Sunday." Hunt said.
The coach singled out Smith for praise. "He hasn't played many games and I thought he showed maturity and he showed a lot of skills with the shots he played and he took it to them."
The Aces get another crack at the Stags - the two teams meet at Eden Park in their final round robin match of the competition next Tuesday.
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